More challenges to a successful retirement

Having a heads-up for some of the potholes on the road of retirement can allow time to make adjustments to the route. Recently I wrote about the challenges of bad timing and a lack of vision about retirement. In this article, I would like to share some other issues that can be a strain on the happy ever after an experience of retirement.

Social isolation and ruptured relationships

When asked about surprises in retirement, some recent retirees talked about the people in their lives. Comments included:

“I was surprised at how few friends from work keep in touch.”
“I did not realize how much I missed human contact. You know, even just being asked how your weekend went.”
“I guess I did not count on missing my work family so much!”
“No one asks my advice or opinion anymore like at work.”

The time to ensure continued friendships from work is while you are still employed. One idea is to arrange to meet socially on a regular basis outside of work before retiring and then continue that routine afterward. The time to start meeting new people is not after you retire. Try new things to meet new people like joining a group, activity, club, or interest group. Try to geta new network in place early to offset the loss of work buddies.

Then there is the rising divorce rate of the 55 plus sometimes referred to as the ‘silver splitters’. Reading WHEN HARRY LEFT SALLY: FINDING YOUR WAY THROUGH GREY DIVORCE by Marion Korn and Eva Sachs sheds light on going separate ways when splitting assets is coming at a difficult time. Loneliness, isolation, and depression can cloud the blue skies of retirement. Look to enriching and improving your relationship with your spouse now to avoid the “silver splitter” situation.

Drug and alcohol abuse

Experts claim that treatment numbers for addictions among retirees will triple by 2020 as drug and alcohol-related hospital visits are rising rapidly. These may be lifetime users who are reaping the effects, or a symptom of caretaking stress, bereavement, or a coping mechanism for illness either physical or mental, isolation or the struggle with aging issues.

Alcohol is still the number one drug of choice with opiates for pain and benzodiazepines or tranquilizers as the next in line. Illegal prescriptions are rampant. Marijuana is still a popular choice for Baby Boomers but cocaine and even heroin are included in drugs of choice. The sex, drugs and rock and roll generation is still around and sliding under the media radar. Most information, policy, and practice focuses on the younger generation.

Related article: Planning for healthcare costs in retirement

Identity issues

Know Thyself applies to retirement as every other stage of life. Lots of choices pop up and making decisions based on your values, interests, personality, and temperament is key. Figure out who you want to be when you transition this time. Your work identity and your on-line work identity need to morph into the new you. While your retirement income is important, it cannot buy purpose, community, or sense of satisfaction. Figure out what resonates with you, recalibrate how you see yourself and start early diversifying your image of yourself as more than your career.

Related article: Who do you want to be when you grow up?

Jane Pauley has a book called YOUR LIFE CALLING: REIMAGINING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. She quotes Laura Carstensen who is a Stanford longevity expert. “Those of us living today have been handed a remarkable gift with no strings attached-an extra 30 years of life for the average person. Now that gift is forcing us to answer a uniquely twenty-first-century question—what are we going to do with our supersized lives?”

Give yourself a year or two to figure that one out and start imagining that as you shift from work to what comes next. It may take a bit of time and patience to find the new niche. Hang in and carry on.

Any other warning signs for those on the road to retirement?


  1. Jill Robson

    Great article Donna, definitely things to thing of. I hope when I get to retirement I still have my close friends to kick up my heals with

  2. Donna McCaw

    Thanks Jill. Those social networks and friendships are very important at each stage of life but especially important in retirement. Figure out how to socialize outside of work settings and then make new contacts so that you find your people when you retire.

  3. Wendy Marlow

    Excellent article Donna, thanks for sharing all those precious nuggets of information.

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